Punter talks up Kiwis

Aussie captain Ricky Ponting is expecting a tough game against the Black Caps.

Asked if he’d expected New Zealand to omit some of their leading players like Sri Lanka did on Tuesday, the captain said: “I wouldn’t have thought so, not in a game that close to the semi-finals.

“They’ll want to beat us and we’ll want to beat them. They’ve got a good record against us of late, having won the three games in New Zealand just before we came away.

Ponting was also encouraged by the progress of all-rounder Shane Watson, who has missed Australia’s last three games with a calf injury.

“I spoke to the physio and he said Shane has actually been moving quite freely for a while now. He evens the balance of our side out very well. It will be a nice little problem to have when he becomes 100% fit again.”

The Australians made light work of their game against the Sri Lankans, chasing the target of 227 with ease, winning by seven wickets.

This came after the Lankans decided to rest their two premiere bowlers, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan, for this fixture.

The victory means the table-topping Aussies have now gone 26 games unbeaten at the World Cup and have taken their winning run at the tournament to 20 matches.

“It doesn’t worry me one little bit,” said Ponting of the decision to rest Vaas and Muralitharan, who Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene subsequently said had a groin problem.

“We’ll take a win, any win, against Sri Lanka this close to the finals,” added Ponting who made an unbeaten 66 and shared an unbroken stand of 106 with Andrew Symonds (63*).

He said he was particularly baffled by Sri Lanka’s decision to omit off-spin star Muralitharan, like Vaas a member of the 1996 World Cup-winning team.

“They obviously had some strategy to rest a couple of their best players. They play Ireland on Wednesday. If they play well, they aren’t going to get a lot out of that game anyway so that’s for them to worry about not us.”

“That’s one thing, I don’t understand. I would have thought it was a good opportunity for him to have a crack at our batsmen. It doesn’t worry our batters because we know the way he goes about things. We play him as well as anybody around the world.”